Some psychologists have estimated that somewhere between 16-50% of the world’s population can identify as being introverted. The range is pretty wide because personality is an incredibly complex and fascinating element of humanity. What that means is up to half of the people you meet have brains that are actually wired discernably different from “social butterflies” (aka extroverts), and many of them go through life feeling pretty misunderstood. In a world that favors the extravagant, the popular, the charismatic, introverts can easily feel overwhelmed and left out; but there’s quite a lot that the quieter folk can offer the people around them.
What Makes Someone Introverted?
But first, let’s look at what scientists know about introverts. The “feel-good” hormone, dopamine, looks different in the brains of introverts compared to extroverts; the amount of dopamine is actually the same, but the way the brain responds looks different. While an extrovert’s brain has a high threshold for dopamine, introverts actually have a low threshold, meaning they don’t need as much dopamine stimulus to feel happy. (1) That’s why many extroverts can feel drained when they haven’t had a chance to meet up with friends or family (or even chat with a stranger in line at a coffeeshop), while introverts often feel overwhelmed when they’ve had too much social time.
Additionally, another “feel-good” neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, behaves differently in introverts. An introverts’ brain responds more to acetylcholine, a chemical that sends “happy” signals during more introspective activities like reflection and focus, rather than outward stimuli. (1)
Introverts tend to greatly value their alone time, pouring themselves into developing their own interests. They don’t need other people to stay entertained or happy, and many introverts have exceptional creative or analytical skills thanks to all of that extra time practicing.
Not sure if you’re a true introvert? Try taking this online test which delves deep into your habits and thought practice to break down your personality into 4 separate categories- each representing a unique personality type.
Common Misconceptions about Introverts
Introverts are anti-social. While it might seem that introverts are always leaving get-togethers early or staying quiet at parties, it’s not true that they don’t like people. On the contrary, all personality types value relationships- humanity is a species that depends on social ties to thrive. Rather, introverts get overwhelmed faster than extroverts, and they need their me-time to “recharge” for their next social experience. So if you see your introvert friend at the grocery store and they run out of sight instead of greet you, don’t be offended.
Introverts are shy. Most people assume that all introverts are shy or have social anxiety disorder, and while some do, it’s certainly not what makes someone introverted. Extroverts too can struggle with shyness and social anxiety, but their personality type drives them to continue seeking social interactions. An introvert, on the other hand, can be quiet and extremely content without experiencing any fear of engaging with new people.
Introverts are self-centered. An introvert who values self-care is a happy and healthy person! When they give their minds and bodies the time they need alone, they can spend more energy being a better friend, parent, partner, and co-worker to the people around them. And this doesn’t only apply to introverts; no matter what your personality type is, you can’t pour into people if your own cup has run dry. Self-care isn’t the same thing as being egocentric. (Not to mention, introverts prefer listening over talking, so they usually make great people to vent to!)
Introverts aren’t opinionated. Introverts spend a lot of time in introspection, and they think a lot before they speak. Sometimes this leaves people assuming that if they’re staying quiet, they don’t have anything to say on a subject. The reality is, however, that introverts have an incredibly rich mental life, and they value developing their thoughts before sharing them with other people. Many introverts are also more comfortable writing their thoughts than speaking them in public. So if you really want their opinion, you should check out their blogs- you might be surprised!
Understanding how the introverts in your life (or yourself!) experience the world can help you love them better, listen to them better, and value them better.